80:8 Photography : Video : Sound : Bands : Portraits


A New Utopia / The Cost of Freeloading

Now don’t get me wrong, the internet is a wonderful thing. Without it – without the humming copper or glowing fibres spun between continents, deep under oceans, hidden under pavements or loosely hanging from telegraph poles, this blog wouldn’t reach er, an average of 20 people a day and neither would the treasure trove of 80:8 photo’s be available to the whole wide world and yet be seen by less than the volume of people in the Nether Wallop paper shop. Deep breath. All of which is a preamble for a book review I’ve just read about “Free Ride: How the internet is destroying the culture business and how the culture business can fight back

It’s an interesting piece about the parasitic nature of the best bits of the internet. How it bites the hand that feeds until there is no economic justification for the hand to continue. You like your music free? You like your news free? You like your films and video’s free? A lot of culture is produced because people have the burning desire to create. But they have to eat also. If they can’t justify the expense of producing Avatar or The Sunday Times, they’ll stop. And what will Google index and serve up then? The new utopia would have us believe everything should be free. That’s how Google likes it. The more that is free, the more that is indexable, the more pay for clicks they can sell. All sold under the utopian vision of everything for free. We’ve been working with lots of young bands recently. Talented, passionate and creatively lucid people who give us something for the soul, our heads and our feet. And god, how they struggle to persuade people to buy a CD for £2.99. They spend £1000 on studio sessions, buy their gear, rehearse and seemingly it’s not worth anything. How can that be? How can that be sustainable? Apply the pain of the music industry to journalism and films and what is the ultimate conclusion? What the author, Robert Levine, goes on to say is “it’s amazing how easy the internet makes it to destroy a business without creating another one in it’s place”. Trades and business die out, usually they are replaced. Not now they are not. Now, they simply die and perhaps we’ll rue the day.

Full circle and I think the story of survival is again a little part of the ethos of 80:8. Only deliver stuff the man in the street can’t. That’s why we use lights with everything. That’s why we’re moving into video. That’s why bands should release vinyl. Alternatively, keep up with the zeitgeist and remain on the pulse. So don’t release another CD – release an App instead. One thing I know. The future is mobile, whatever that means. The new utopia, generally,  is espoused by people who see themselves as some kind of digital guerilla, while at the same time they support the intentions of some of the biggest corporations in the world.

The internet is a wonderful thing. Fire can cook your food, keep you warm and light your way. And of course, it can burn your house down.


Camera Phones – The only future for street photography

The ability to take photographs in public of people, is a debate that flares up every so often within pro-photography circles. Of course, the law, theoretically is on our side. If a person is in a public place, engaging in a public and visible activity, then they have no legal right to privacy. You can snap away. Unfortunately, the word of the law is one thing and it’s interpretation by both police and the general public is something else. I was photographing a demonstration a few years ago and one particular chap, waving a flag and obviously very passionate about his cause, was a fabulous subject. So I was snapping away, my eye glued to the viewfinder when he disappeared. Only to reappear at my shoulder bellowing at me, red in the face, demanding to know why I was taking photo’s of him. The answer of course was quite simple. He was a spectacle and he was stood in Market Street Manchester, which as far as I know isn’t someone’s living room. I’m calmly pointed this out to him, but was met with a barrage of abuse and demands to delete the photo’s. Which I refused to do of course. He moved away, but despite being notionally in the right, it still left a bitter taste in my mouth. And seconds later I noticed the police with their telezooms were all trained on me. Hmmmm….I felt uncomfortable. Now read the third sentence above. A-ha! Hypocrisy Alert!

I analysed my reaction, taking the fact that the photographers were police out of the equation. They had big camera’s, big zooms and looked professional. With the word professional, comes the notion that the photo’s are to be used for ‘something’. Whereas a dude with a phonecam or something is probably just taking snaps. So, I think the reticence of the general public to be photographed is all about that ‘usage’ concept. If I lurk around a corner with a hooting big 200mm zoom, attached to a camera the size of a house brick, then my usage is probably going to be for something other than a snap. And y’know – that’s right. I don’t have a sinister reason for taking the shot of course, but I do have a reason. For those of you who enjoy street photography – think about that reason. Think outside of yourself for a second and wonder whether you would be perfectly happy with that idea? I play the advocate of the devil here of course, but it’s worth thinking about.

Hence now, when in public places, I only point my ‘pro’ camera at friends, family and inanimate objects. Other times, I use my iPhone and hack ’em with PS Express like the photo shown here. Is it any less fun? No. Can I flog ’em to Alamy? Er, no. Am I betraying the pro-photogs? Dunno. Maybe. Not. Answers on a postcard.

Any yes, I’m fully aware of the paradox of public antipathy towards still photo’s and privacy, and that of the rise and rise of CCTV. Fish/kettle/bucket/frogs. Not going there. Meanwhile, enjoy!

Diversify or Die?

What does the future hold for the still photographer? It’s a common theme in forums, magazines and anywhere else photographers congregate – especially those who are attempting to a make living from the industry. Digital killed photography! Is one cry, closely followed by digital is the saviour of photography! Undoubtably it’s much harder to sell prints these days – people want files. Using this analogy, the photography industry is in much better health than the music biz, where new artist development has plunged and where generational changes has meant that anyone under the age of 25 feels that downloads should be free. The intrinsic value of a file is seen as being practically zero.

For me, it’s about still be able to produce something that ordinarily couldn’t be produced by just a guy with a camera. That’s why I use flash a lot, and reflectors, and the best lenses and special locations and most importantly, a bucket load of thought behind each image combined with RUTHLESS editing. If it’s not 100% right, it gets binned. Sure this means it takes time to build up and refresh a portfolio, but if you shoot a lot and shoot varied subjects it needn’t be so. We do a lot of work with unsigned bands with not much money. We charge them an appropriate amount of money for this – which is of course discounted. However, that doesn’t meant they get sub-standard images – they get exactly the same quality and thought that Biffy Clyro would get. Exactly the same. No corners cut.

That’s one way of ensuring a future. The other is to diversify. With the advent of D-SLR’s that have HD video capability the limits of what a photographer is, are vanishing. I love video, I’m still learning it, it’s a challenge – all of which are the same feelings I got when striving to produce professional looking stills millions of years ago. I can do that now – so time to move on and learn another discipline which may lead to another revenue stream. Interestingly, although ‘video’ is pretty much in the reach of everyone, just like stills, the quality of video, the editing, the story telling isn’t. It takes time and a lot of skill to get great video, to piece it together, get the soundtrack, add titles – so I feel it hasn’t yet been totally democratized in the way that photography and to some extent music has.

This week has been very busy for 80eight – shooting green screen video, getting secondary matte footage, creating titles and motion graphics…And no stills! Perhaps ‘photographer’ is an outmoded term. Maybe it’s simply a visual digital content creator? Hmmm, that’s not too snappy is it? And so, to illustrate this piece, here’s a still. But one that is suitably cinematic.